Prepping your home for sale in Chicago goes beyond throwing half your junk away, hiding your valuable art and prescription drugs, doing a deep clean and staging; it’s about prepping your home in the online world as well. Once your home hits the open market it and you become a target for not only telemarketers but cyberscammers as well. Some tips:

Anonymize your personal data.
Ever wonder how that telemarketer gets your contact information? Well, every aspect of you and your home has become a commodity to be bought and sold for use online and off. From utility companies to public data records scattered about the internet, everyone and their mother has access to it so air-gap between your personal data and your home. Create an email address for your home (ex: 12345mainstreet@gmail.com) with one of the many services available; the BuySellLoveChicago team loves Google. File this email addy with your utility companies, city/county tax assessors, even Amazon.com. This comes in handy for not only stealth, but security as well (more on that later). Use GoogleVoice to create a dedicated phone number for your home as well, and repeat the filing procedures mentioned above using the GVoice number in lieu of your own there. Download the GoogleVoice app and sync it to your cell phone number. The app allows you to monitor incoming calls, blast people to voicemail where it’s transcribed and block numbers at will, all while masking your number to the world, which comes in handy for the coming onslaught of realtor telemarketers once your home goes on the market.

When should you do this? Ideally, you should’ve done this the day you bought your home years ago, but there’s no better time to start a really good habit like this than right now. Anonymizing data is painful – akin to changing your credit card number on all the auto-pay systems you use – but well worth the time. Especially when you see where your data is being misused during and after the transaction. Anonymize now as it takes months for databases and lists to update.

Take ownership of your home’s online presence.
You’ve been Googling and researching the value of your home for a while, we know it, but have you taken ownership of your home while doing it? On Zillow, for example, you can claim your home and update the data displayed to a would-be buyer here: zillow.com/sellerlanding/claimyourhome/. Don’t forget to use your home’s new email and phone number when filling out your home’s profile on Zillow as doing so opens the door to the telemarketers and incessant phone calls from REALTORS, which is the biggest drawback to using the home valuation tools the company offers. Don’t go crazy with your pictures though; scammers download and use them on other websites to fool unsuspecting buyers and renters to the point that the FBI has started a complaint site here: ic3.gov/default.aspx. If you tried to sell your home on your own using any of the myriad of tools found online, make sure you delete the information you created. Inaccurate information creates doubt in a would-be buyer down the road and can hamper your negotiation strength. Create a Google Alert (ex: 12345 main st chicago) for your home so that you’re notified when your home shows up online on websites Google indexes and peruse sites like Craigslist for misuses of your home’s address and/or pictures there. Our team has seen listings, pictures and addresses of our client’s homes misused on these sites by scammers and REALTORS (for lead generation) alike.

When should you do this? Taking possession of and monitoring your home’s presence is like monitoring your credit, you wish you did it years ago usually the same time things go south. For profiles like Zillow, do it in the weeks before your listing goes active, but keep in mind that all homes are unique due to their online past and require more hands on work. Many of the issues mentioned above are addressed in our team’s listing strategy consultation and monitoring during the home sale time period is a service to you.

Learn to mistrust email.
This last paragraph is for you. We get how trustworthy email can be and checking it and clicking on what’s within has become secondary to breathing for many, but when it comes to your home sale nothing should should be more secure than your email itself. Plugged into your social media, your online grocery and retail stores you use and your phone and apps you use, your email address is the key to your digital life. Ever click on a Facebook “what kind of puppy are you?” poll or a seemingly innocuous web link that went nowhere? Chances are your email got hacked with those hackers waiting for keywords within a real estate transaction email conversation to pique their interest in your email where they wait for a contract – complete with everything they need to spoof a wiring instruction email, for example – to come to completion. So become hyper-aware of what you click on, especially the closer you get to finalizing any type of financial transaction, real estate or not. Creating a gap between your home and your personal data (mentioned above) is the first step in cyber security. As a rule we instruct clients that we will followup via phone call on any monetary move and keep our clients ahead of the curve on emerging trends in this space from thought leaders like our friends at the National Association of REALTORS legal team.

Preparing your home for sale is more than sticking a sign in the ground and throwing your house on the web. Knowing what’s online, what pitfalls there are in the space and most importantly know how to deal with the issues found there is a huge job that not many are prepared to undertake. The BuySellLoveChicago team hopes you found these three tips helpful! Give us a shout if you need any help with your home prep questions anytime!

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.